Bike Trainers…Are They People Or Machines?
I’ve been so immersed in the world of indoor bike trainers that I forget that perhaps not everyone knows what I’m even talking about, never mind the different types of bike trainers out on the market.
So let’s start by clarifying some of the fundamentals…while there are people who are willing to ‘train’ you to a high level of fitness using a bike, the term ‘bike trainer’ is more commonly used for a device you attach your bike to. Your everyday bicycle can then double as an indoor stationary bike.
So…a bike trainer is a machine, not a specialized type of personal trainer.
Not All Bike Trainers Are Created Equal
There are basically three types of trainers for a bike, not counting the very expensive trainers that are integrated into a computer program…projecting onto a screen a virtual ride that you can participate in. These are a blast to use, but are beyond the means of most people. Try over $1200.
Getting back to the ‘affordable’ trainers, you get what you pay for…with fluid trainers being the most expensive, mag trainers coming in second place, and wind trainers generally being the least expensive.
- The fluid trainers, like the Cycle Ops Fluid trainer, generally provide the quietest and most ‘realistic’ ride.
- Magnetic trainers are the middle child of trainers, although models like the CycleOps Magneto now rival the best fluid trainers.
- The wind trainers are appropriate for more casual cyclists who don’t mind the added noise of this type of trainer, and appreciate the smaller price tag.
Let’s Kick It Off With Fluid Trainers
Fluid trainers have provided the quietest ride and the most resistance of the three types for quite some time now. These trainers provide resistance by spinning an impeller through a fluid-filled chamber.
While this has been one of the best ways to create a workload, there were inherent flaws in the design…namely leakage. Over the last few years, a company called Kurt Kinetic patented a design that eliminated all seals and O-rings, thus eliminating potential for any fluid seeping out of their trainers no matter how much they’re used. This leak-free design has propelled Kurt Kinetic to the top of this type of bike trainer.
Magnetic Trainers Are Nipping At Fluid Trainer Heels
With some recent design improvements, magnetic trainers now aren’t too far behind fluid trainers. I’ve had the chance to put a CycleOps Magneto trainer next to a CycleOps Fluid 2 and I’d have been hard pressed to prefer the ride on one over the other.
They were both smooth, quiet, and provided more of a workload than these legs could sustain.
Wind Trainers: Loud, Simple-Simons?
It used to be that wind trainers weren’t much more than flimsy ‘squirrel cages’. They didn’t provide much in the way of resistance, they were loud, and they didn’t fare well when things bumped into them.
They were especially susceptible to getting damaged when they were being moved from living room to storage room, or when they were transported in the trunk of a car from home to a bike race (bike trainers are used by many cyclists for warm-ups before the race).
Current top-notch wind trainers are pretty stout devices with cast iron fans built into the same industrial strength frames that support the best fluid and mag trainers. With fewer moving parts, it could be argued that this style is more reliable than either of its big brothers.
The down-side of wind trainers is that all of that wind they create can get pretty noisy. But if you’re the type of cyclist who doesn’t habitually go much faster than 17 mph on flat ground (the vast majority of those who ride a bike), the sound may not be too much of a problem.
Make A Date With A Bike Trainer
Where I live in California, the snow is now flying (didn’t expect that from California, did you?) and will be for the next week.
That means it’s time to give up on the unseasonably warm winter we were having up until this point, and pull the bike trainer out of the spare bedroom and into the living room in front of the TV. I happen to have one of the early model Kurt Kinetic Fluid trainers, but these days you should be able to choose from a wide variety of quality bike trainers.
Make a date with your bike trainer for three rides a week this winter and you’ll hit the nice weather of spring in ‘fightin’ shape.
About the author: Dr. Ron Fritzke is a chiropractor in Mount Shasta, California. In addition to his private practice, he’s also part of the sports medicine team at the College of the Siskiyous. A former 2:17 marathon runner, he’s now obsessed with riding his bike on the roads, on trails, and even in his living room, on a bike trainer.